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RCC: How To Construct A Good Deck

We are pleased to bring you a brand new column: Ranked Climb with crAzerk!

crazerk

In this column, Ranked Climb with crAzerk (RCC), our resident writer, crAzerk, will share his insights into the game of Hearthstone via strategy articles, blogs about his own ranked experiences, and other write-ups. These are catered to both new players as well as the average player of Hearthstone. Please leave any suggestions/requests for future articles in the comments below, or contact crAzerk directly at atqhteo [at] gmail [dot] com.

In this first article, crAzerk will explain some basic fundamentals on how to build your own deck. Enjoy!

Introduction

The number one question that plagues many players is this – how do I construct a good deck? They resort to copying decklists from top ranked players, ManaGrind winners, or from their favourite streamers, but have little understanding of what makes these decks tick. Some may also complain that the game is pay-to-win, as they are missing many key Legendaries that seem to feature in every ‘top’ deck.

In this article, I will be explaining how to construct your own winning deck. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will realize that a strong deck does not simply comprise of Legendaries, but a series of deliberate choices, and will have a better understanding on how to construct a synergistic and solid deck with the cards at your disposal.

constructing2

Contents
1)  Understanding deck objectives/win conditions
2) Understanding contingencies
3) Some deck examples


Understanding deck objectives/win conditions

The first question to ask when building a deck is this – what are the objectives of your deck?

Some possible answers are as follows:

  • Rush the enemy hero in the early game with cheap minions, killing him off as soon as possible, preferably by turn 8
  • Control the board with solid early minions and buffs
  • Control the board with spells, keeping the enemy’s board clear
  • Deal direct damage to the enemy Hero with strong spells
  • Play big minions to overpower the enemy in the late game
  • Swarm the board in the mid game with durable mobs and keep them up with heal

Usually, the objectives of a deck are combined to form the win condition of your deck. For example, the old ‘Frost Mage’ which used to be really popular had the two objectives of controlling/delaying the board with freeze spells, as well as dealing direct damage via Pyroblast, Fireball, etc. The current ‘Aggro Mage’ involves  early aggression with a mixture of minions and spells to hopefully reduce the enemy’s HP down to 10 by turn 8, and finish him off with a Pyroblast.

A good deck usually has a number of well-thought out objectives, which culminate in a win condition.

This will become clearer as I go through the examples in the last segment. But first, let’s move on to contingencies.

Understanding contingencies

The next question to ask is this – what are the contingencies of your deck?

To put it differently, what can possibly prevent you from fulfilling your objectives, and how do you overcome these obstacles? To use a simple example, if one of your objectives is to crush your enemy with big, hard hitting late game minions, the obvious obstacle would be an enemy deck that has good early game minions. What use are your big minions if you get killed by turn 6? You would need to think of how to deal with these pesky early game minions, perhaps through some board clears, some damage spells, or simply throw in some synergistic early-game minions of your own. The contingencies of your deck correspondingly becomes another added objective of it.

All these may sound quite hazy, but I’ll go through three different decks with entirely different objectives/win conditions and contingencies, and perhaps you can understand these principles better.

Examples

Let’s look at a current popular deck, a variation of the Warrior Giants OTK:

Win Condition: The obvious win condition is to have in hand one of the ‘winning combos’ (e.g. Warsong Commander, Youthful Brewmaster and 2x Molten Giants) when you have 10 HP or below, and combo them to deal minimum 27 damage. The extra 3 damage can come from a Fiery War Axe, another Youthful Brewmaster, Raging Worgen, or basically from incidental damage earlier before your combo.

Obstacles: What can stop you from achieving your combo? The first will be you dying before you draw your necessary cards. The second will be the presence of numerous Taunt minions when you want to pull off your combo. The third will be your opponent keeping you above 15 HP, and waits till he has lethal damage to finish you off.

Objectives/Contingencies: To deal with early minions, this deck incorporates several strong removals such as Cleave, Slam, Whirlwind and Execute, all of which can be buffed with the Spell Power minions that were included. To deal with taunts/swarms, there is one Brawl included to clear the board and hope that the taunt gets removed. There is the scary possibility of a Raging Worgen + Inner Rage, which deals 12 damage when it attacks. There are a number of card draws included to increase the probability of drawing the winning combination.

To summarize, the objectives of this deck appears to be: (* indicates the win condition)

  • Remove early threats with efficient spell usage, bolstered by a Bloodmage Thalnos
  • Cycle through cards quickly with the potential 9 card draws to draw the winning combo/alternatives
  • Remove a mid-game, taunt heavy board with Brawl
  • Deal damage whenever possible to the enemy hero (e.g. Raging Worgen)
  • * Throw down any of the winning combos such as the one mentioned above – those that deal massive massive damage in one turn (hence the One Turn Kill moniker of this deck) – e.g.  Warsong Commander, 2x Raging Worgens and 2x Inner Rage equates to 24 damage (a Youthful Brewmaster in this combo would bring the damage up to 30). Warsong Commander, Raging Worgen, Inner Rage, Molten Giant, Youthful Brewmaster equates to 31 damage!

Let’s look at another example, a variation of the popular Aggro Mage (there are a dozen Aggro Mage decks out there, and I am not saying this is the best or anything; it is just for illustration purposes:)

Win Condition: The win condition of this deck is to draw Pyroblast(s) and shoot your opponent’s face with them. Logically, the hope is that before you get to use Pyroblast, you would have brought their HP down to 10 HP, so Pyroblast acts as a finisher.

Obstacles: Two Pyroblasts means a 1 in 15 chance of a single drawn card being Pyroblast (and the % goes up as the number of remaining cards go down, obviously). There is a good chance it will take a while before you get your Pyroblasts, and your opponent may have killed you by then.

Objectives/Contingencies: There are a number of ways to deal with this. One old variation was to stall with Freeze cards such as Cone of Cold, Frost Nova, Blizzard (pre-nerf). Other variations that aim to stall include Ice Blocks, which equates to two extra card draws to get your lethal damage. These stall variations typically include direct damage cards like Fireball, Frostbolt Ice Lance, etc to bring the enemy hero’s HP down.

For this particular example deck, the strategy to survive early game is actually to have early minion control with its low mana curve, and pull out several Charge minions to strike the enemy Hero to bring him down to 10 HP to set him up for a Pyroblast.

To summarize, the objectives of this deck appears to be: (* indicates the win condition)

  • Exert early board dominance with low mana curve minions/spells and the holy triad of buffs – Shattered Sun Cleric, Dark Iron Dwarf and Defender of Argus
  • Get off incidental hero damage with the three Charge minions in the deck, as well as Fireballs, aiming to bring the enemy Hero down to 10 HP before Pyroblast can be used
  • Delay any enemy damage in the  mid-game with some freeze skills such as Cone of Cold, Blizzard and Frostbolts, as well as the tricky Sylvanas Windrunner
  • *Deal direct damage via Pyroblast, Fireball, Frostbolt (whatever is available) to finish off the enemy hero

For the final deck, let’s look at a slightly less current, but still extremely fun and tricky deck, the Handlock:

Objectives/Contingencies: This deck is a bit more tricky in that it tries to cover all facets with multiple synergistic objectives – the synergy lies in the fact that if one fails, the other objective is more likely to succeed. Perhaps explaining the objectives upfront would make more sense than following the previous formats.

  • Life Tap for first 3 turns until turns 4-5, before playing Mountain Giant/Twilight Drake (if you haven’t drawn either by turn 3, it’s something like a 1 in 4 chance to draw at least one of them on turn 4)
  • Strong spells such as Hellfire, Shadow Bolt, Mortal Coil, Drain Life, Soulfire, to remove early threats while drawing for Mountain Giants/Twilight Drake. Can be combined with Kobold Geomancer or Bloodmage Thalnos
  • Control mid-game with Mountain Giant/Twilight Drake, which will be hard to deal with if they come early (around turns 4-6)
  • When you reach 10 HP eventually, either via enemy damage or Life Taps (remember, more cards you have = stronger Twilight Drake or cheaper Mountain Giants!), play free Molten Giants, and bring HP back up to 15 with Alexstraza or Lord Jaraxxus (can be done twice)
  • If board gets out of control, Twisting Nether is a board reset
  • Faceless Manipulator deals with enemy’s late game minions, and Ragnaros and Ysera add to an already heavy late game arsenal

The win condition here is to overwhelm your opponent with the high HP, high damage late-game minions at your disposal, in the above described strategy.

As you can see, decks can vary greatly in their objectives, but the important thing is for you to understand what the objectives of any deck are. Once you are able to grasp this well, you are well on your way to constructing your own deck. Even if you do not have the cards, you will understand why that card was included in the first place.

To give two quick examples:

  • Bloodmage Thalnos is included in decks that utilize spells for that extra boost, and if you don’t have that, you can always substitute him for a Kobold Geomancer (though missing the card draw, but making up for it with slightly more durability)
  • One objective of the above Warrior OTK Deck was to cycle through cards quickly to draw the winning combination. Knowing this, if you don’t have Gadgetzan Auctioneer/Azure Drake, you can always include more budget card draws such as Novice Engineer, Loot Hoarder, or Gnomish Inventor.

And to conclude, I shall leave you with a summarized view of everything:

In a nutshell, to build your own deck,
1) Decide on some central objectives of your deck
2) Construct a deck of about 15-20 cards to fulfill these objectives
3) Brainstorm about any obstacles to your objectives
4) Add in contingencies to overcome these obstacles
5) Test the deck against real players, and improve accordingly

I hope this article has helped you understand some of the intricacies of deck construction! Stay tuned next week for the next edition of RCC!

What do you all think of crAzerk’s guide on decks? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned to Hearthstone Alley, or our Facebook and Twitter for the latest Hearthstone and community news!

– crAzerk#1308

Image Credits: Blizzard, Jeremy, crAzerk

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This entry was posted on January 5, 2014 by in Ranked Climb with crAzerk.

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